Thursday night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks was supposed to be about pride. It was supposed to be about salvaging some modicum of respect and responding to the humiliating 9-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks two nights prior.
Suffice it to say it was none of those things.
In what was supposed to be a bounce-back game, the New York Rangers suffered their second straight rout, this time a 6-0 loss to the Ducks.
Drawing conclusions from Tuesday’s game might have been premature, but now it’s fair to ask the hard questions:
Are the Rangers really this bad?
It’s hard to believe that is the case with former Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes, defensemen Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal patrolling the blue line, and talent such as Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan.
But, Thursday’s eyesore was rife with defensive breakdowns, costly giveaways and downright ineptitude. So much so that it’s worth asking: Are the Rangers struggling without coach John Tortorella?
Yes, he was a tough-love taskmaster who treated his players with the finesse of a meat-grinder, but he also forced the best out of them. Under the fiery Tortorella, the Rangers were a hard-working, stingy, blue-collar team that was difficult to play against every night.
They barely even resembles that same team.
Granted, there have been some early obstacles. The team’s preseason schedule and nine-game road trip to start the regular season certainly does them no favors. And yes, there may be a learning curve under Alain Vigneault. You can make the argument that Stepan’s training camp absence and some unfortunate injuries are also to blame.
But things are getting very serious early.
One even has to wonder about the play of Lundqvist, and what impact the looming contract talks may be having. The 31-year-old said he won’t allow himself to be distracted by any negotiations between his camp and the Rangers on an extension, but it’s hard not to wonder if he’s letting that seep into his mind.
He wasn’t the sole culprit to blame Thursday night. Not even close. Everyone appeared complicit.
It’s not just that the Rangers have won only one of four games, it’s that they have been outscored 15-2 in the past six periods of play. Thursday’s match was suppose to be a true gut check, a display of the character that still exists for a team that made it to the Eastern Conference finals just two years ago.